There is one thing about giving birth in Singapore that I am REALLY nervous about. It's not the rumoured compulsory enema (my doctor said he doesn't mind about cleaning up after the baby's arrived) nor the apparently equally compulsory shaving of the private bits. Nor is it the fact that there'll be no family present except for S. (that is actually quite as I like it) or the fact that rumour has it I might be pressured into having a C-section if the gynaecologist wants to get home on time for dinner (the only mum I know who had a C-section in Singapore definitely was a case of medical necessity, so I'm a bit sceptical as to the truth of the story).
No. It's the epidural which I'll almost certainly have. I didn't have one the first time round.
In the Netherlands home births attended by midwifes are the norm. It's possible to give birth in a hospital (still attended by the midwife who's been monitoring the mother-to-be throughout her pregnancy), but if there is no medical necessity, you have to partly pay your own way (it's not that much).
About half of all first time births turn into a medical necessity at some point. So did mine - E. was taking her time coming out, so the midwife advised to have some hormones to speed the process up. The thing is: midwifes are not allowed to do stuff with needles. So I had to go into the hospital and the gynaecologist took over.
"Do you want an epidural?" The gynaecologist asked me. I told her I'd let her know if the pain got too bad. Then the pain got so bad I forgot. (No, really.)
This shocks almost everybody I've told the story to.
The non-Dutch women are shocked that I didn't ask for pain relief. Some think it was bravery, or the preference of a natural birthing process. It wasn't. I'm scared of needles. Especially if they go into my spine. What I mean - the spinal cord. The core control centre of every movement of my body. Sticking foreign objects into. Scary.
Dutch women are shocked I was offered an epidural. I have not heard from one other Dutch woman who was ever offered pain relief - usually you have to fight hand, tooth and nail to get anywhere near needles and quite often by the time you get there, the doctor'll tell you that it's too late (I know many, many women this has happened to). The only women (could also be woman) I know who've managed to have an epidural in the Netherlands are expats.
And I said no!
And I survived!
Yes, it hurt. But somehow (well, with a little help from a stern nurse who told me to shut up and breathe, and a lot of help from S. who huffed and puffed and held my legs for hours while watching Star Wars - thank you George Lucas for extended versions) I went "into the zone" and "into the pain" and time stopped and I forgot about needles and birthing stools and then I had a baby.
This time, I haven't even bothered writing a birthing plan. I trust my doctor. He knows what I want, and I trust him to a good judge of the medical side of things. I've just looked it up and neonatal and infant mortality is lower in Singapore than in the Netherlands (which is not that surprising, since it is actually quite high in the Netherlands. Such a very comforting statistic if you're pregnant). He promised there'd be no enema's, no shaving and no pressuring into C-sections and yes to breast feeding support. I told him I have no principled stance on natural birthing or pain relief. My priorities are health and safety for both mother and child.
I also made S. promise to grab the baby as soon as it's left the womb and not to hand it over to anybody but me until we have spent some serious quality time together. This is OUR CHILD. Other people should BACK AWAY SLOWLY.
So, basically, I feel that I'm all set and all planned. (Well, except for the newborn diapers that I still need to buy.)